July 6, 2014
In a situation where there is competition between races – such as at the FIFA World Cup – it is very natural for people to think it terms of race, and to express themselves along these lines.
Fantastically, even with millions put into fighting this racism, FIFA has failed completely to stop the tide of mockery.
At 10.32am, Rio time, Fifa dignitaries gathered at the Maracana to launch a “Say No To Racism” video, featuring Lionel Messi, David Luiz and Pele, which will be shown on screens at World Cup quarter-final stadiums on Friday and Saturday. Within 20 minutes, Fifa was ripping itself apart over the speed, direction and strength of its anti-racism campaign. Fifa ended the session standing accused of not wanting to acknowledge the ugly side of the ‘Beautiful Game’.
The genesis of the schism was simple. The Fifa task force against racism headed by Jeffrey Webb was aghast at the Fifa disciplinary committee’s failure to punish discriminatory acts by Mexico, Croatia and Germany supporters in Brazil. Webb, the president of Concacaf, sat next to Claudio Sulser, the former Swiss international and current chairman of the disciplinary commission, at the Maracana. They made awkward neighbours.
“It is obvious there is a disconnect between what we in the task force deem as racism and discrimination and what the disciplinary committee deems as racism and discrimination,” Webb said. Ouch. Sulser stared straight ahead and defended his committee’s inactivity, retreating into the more obscure parts of the rule book for justification.
To the other side of Sulser sat the great Cafu, who took a commendably quick line to the root of the problem. “There must be strict sanctions to punish racism in stadia, in the street, anywhere,” said the Brazilian.
Dwight Yorke nodded in agreement, adding: “We have to send out a message.”
On the eve of the tournament, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, campaigned for this to be the “anti-racism” World Cup. Sadly, Mexican fans chanted “puto” (“faggot”) at opposing keepers, although Sulser argued that it was not clear who they were targeting so no action could be taken. “They used rude words,” said Sulser, “but not directed at a specific player.” Bizarre.
No action was also taken against Germany supporters who blacked up their faces at the game with Ghana. No action was taken against Croatia fans who waved neo-Nazi flags. Sulser argued that the specific offences were not covered by the disciplinary code.
Though this may seem insignificant, the fact that racism happens, and that they are unable to do anything about it, means a lot. It gives it the appearance, to many people, that it is acceptable.
With each small victory like this, the public’s conception of what is and isn’t socially acceptable is pushed further to the right.